Too many sullen, horrified words are written about women and our bodies – how we are defined by our size, judged, weighed up, weighed, fetishised, objectified. Our issues. Our ‘relationship’ with food. Not just that we eat, or don’t eat. Deprivation, derogation, dreary denial.
Let’s bring the love back.
Let’s dispel some myths about women’s bodies.
Let’s stop pretending we know what other women look like just because we read a fashion magazine or saw an advert and really take a long, hard look at other women’s bodies. And our own body. Naked, in a full-length mirror. We need to open our eyes and our minds to how our own form fits in.
In art, the full glory of the human body, warts and all, is easy to find, from Stanley Spencer and Jenny Saville, Freud to Rubens, in life drawing, and on naturist beaches, at the swimming pool. We need to study bodies, really absorb our similarities and differences. Pick out the bits we like. Look at the flesh. Understand our ages and what childbirth changes. We need to find new ways of seeing the female form and set ourselves free from a negative inner dialogue.
If you really want to hear the truth, ask someone who loves you.
Here’s what they’re all really saying behind your back: My husband and the men I have chosen to share a bed with before him, are not alone in their opinion of the female form. The way they talk about the beauty of women is exquisite in itself: the admiration (not objectification) of women is indiscriminate: women of colour, pale women, tall women, small women, big women, not always able bodied women, older women. A body that hosts a woman with an opinion – as fierce as she is vulnerable, with an appetite for food, or a book. To them, a woman’s beauty isn’t defined by the average or the label in her dress; it’s her individuality which is especially beautiful and what captivates the opposite sex, and mesmerises women in same-sex relationships. And we all have that. Nobody else is us.
He likes your bony arms and your mum tum. He only sees sexy in your fat. She dreams about the curve of your back and your little fingers. Someone is in love with your freckles, your wonky smile, the strange cow-lick of your fringe. If the person you love doesn’t talk about you like this, close the door on them.
This isn’t fetishising, it’s the plain, simple way I feel about the person I love.
I love him. I don’t want him perfect. He is my equal. I like my heroes to carry a Tesco bag and put the bins out. I love them bones of him, and the flesh of him.
My mother is a feeder, she equates food with love, generosity, warmth and wealth but her attitude to bodies is indifferent. She doesn’t fixate on what hers looks like – like I don’t. And that’s where this liberation comes from for me – and we are mothers with a duty to show our daughters that we are comfortable in our own skin too, so they can be. Food is fuel, and a pleasure. It gives us vitality. Nothing more. It’s not a sorry or an apology, or a guilt or a comfort. It’s always joyous. It’s not for sad times. It’s for good times. I’ve been ‘too fat’ and I’ve been ‘too thin’ but I’ve never fallen out of love with my body.
When you came into your mother’s world, she fell in love with you. Every part of your beautiful self, every tiny perfect, imperfect part of you.
Your child just sees you. Beautiful, familiar, mother-shaped you. You towering strength of love. You funny, ferocious, fucked up thing of wonder. You glorious creature – the one who is always there, the shape of everything. Their universe. They don’t see the bags underneath the divine pools of your eyes, where they go to stare, the place they want to be lost in forever. To be with you. Nestled in your perfect arms.
If you truly want to change the outer layer, start with how you think.
Peel off your inhibition. Stop thinking about your shell. Imagine your arteries, focus on your fitness, see a longer future with your children, find the movement you love – what makes your soul sing? Fresh air? Dancing the Tango? Kiss-chase with your cheeky three-year-old? Do that. Don’t do the miserable gym, don’t make yourself do anything. Eat well to feel good. Throw away the scales and forget the numbers. Do what you love and love what you can do, not what you cannot.
A late, lovely man I once knew who passed away a while ago used to call me Fat Arse. When he first said it, I turned to slap him one, and he said: “I didn’t say I didn’t like it, I just said it was fat.” It is. That word is for me and that nickname makes me smile.
Because I love me. And I love you too, beautiful.
Image credit: gif by Libby VanderPloeg